Six things to know about wireless spectrum

Ottawa announced on Friday it raised $2.11 billion in its latest wireless spectrum auction that gave various telecommunication carriers the capacity of AWS-3 (Advanced Wireless Services) airwaves.

Six things you need to know about wireless spectrum:

What is wireless spectrum?: Practically every wireless technology uses radio frequencies to communicate, including TV signals and radio broadcasts. Mobile phones occupy a small and dedicated space in this wider band of frequencies.

Who owns it?: Wireless spectrum is a publicly-owned asset managed by the federal government, who can then determine how its use is allocated to various industries and communications, from radio stations to police radar. The telecommunications industry has been bidding on licences for particular spectrum that will help improve the speed and capabilities of its mobile phones and other wireless services.

Why is spectrum being auctioned?: As technology changes, large chunks of spectrum become available. For example, the shift away from analog television broadcasts to digital TV freed up some 700 MHz spectrum, which resulted in the recent government auctions to determine how those frequencies would be reallocated.

What type of spectrum was sold in this auction?: In general, the lower the frequency the more valuable the spectrum. In the case of the AWS-3 (Advanced Wireless Services) auction, the spectrum was in the 1755-1780 MHz and 2155-2180 MHz bands, which made it less attractive to some carriers. The appeal of AWS-3 frequency is that it can transfer large quantities of data quickly, but the downside is it doesn’t easily travel through buildings or longer distances.

How much money did the auction raise? Ottawa says it will receive $2.11 billion from the AWS-3 auction. Winners are required to make an initial payment of 20 per cent on the total amount they owe by March 20, while the remaining 80 per cent is due by April 21.Where the money goes: Payments go to the government’s general revenue fund and are recognized over a 20-year period for accounting purposes.